Get your house in order for killer sales days
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The “Pizza Holidays” are soon to be upon us. Those would be Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and of course Super Bowl Sunday.
We work so hard on a daily basis to make sure that our operation flows smoothly, but we need to be extra diligent in how we prepare for these big days. There are two main principles that we want to keep in mind throughout this entire process, and those are “speed” and “efficiency”.
When we are getting hit with massive amounts of orders at a mind numbing speed, we cannot afford to stop for one second. Days like these are what our reputations are based on. Our customers need to have a level of comfort with us knowing that we will always be reliable even under the most taxing conditions. Our ability to deliver is how we will be measured. If we fail, then rest assured the customer will be open to the idea of looking elsewhere. We can prevent this by being properly prepared. Let’s delve into four key areas to focus on:
In years past this just meant order extra of everything. In the post pandemic world that narrative has been completely changed. The first and most important point here is to make sure that you are in good financial standing with your vendors. If there are shortages on a certain product you can be assured that the vendor will allocate those items to their customers that do not have outstanding late accounts payable.
Next, take a look at your order sheet and identify items that have had supply chain issues over the past three months. You will need to talk with your vendors about these items ahead of time. Non-perishable items such as pizza boxes and to-go containers can be stocked up on a few weeks in advance so that there are no surprises last minute with availability. As far as fresh, perishable items go speak to your sales representative at least two weeks in advance, alerting them to how much more of certain items you will need as opposed to how much you normally order. By having this conversation with your vendors before your competitors do you can get yourself to the front of the line ahead of time rather than being one of those customers scrambling at the last minute.
It should go without saying that your calendar should have big red X’s on these days showing that nobody can request those days off. These are the big five in our business and they are “all hands on deck” days. Labor cost will never be an issue on these days as sales should greatly outweigh any labor benchmark percentages. Execution is key to our continued success so make sure there are enough bodies staffing every department. Do not be afraid to overstaff more than you think you could ever need. If it is as busy as we hope, then you will thank yourself for having enough bodies to let the operation flow efficiently. As business slows down staff can be cut early, but do not leave yourself shorthanded.
These are those days when the old mantra of “time is money” rings true. The machine that is our kitchen needs to operate at top speed and not be slowed up by anything that could have been anticipated ahead of time. For example, extra allotments of pizza boxes should be folded and ready to go. One cannot afford to stop during the hit to fold boxes. Look to other open areas in the restaurant to store these items. If it means squeezing a few stacks into a wait station or a seldom used table, then so be it. Do not stop during service to grab another case of to-go containers and open it up. Have extra stock already opened up and stored in a spot where it can be quickly grabbed. It may be uncomfortable or annoyingly “in my way”, but this is a small price to temporarily pay to keep the machine moving at full speed.
There is no gray area here. You MUST over prep. There is no excuse for having to stop during service on our big five days. Every item on the line should have at least double the amount of backups that you would normally prepare. Fresh prepped perishable items are not going to spoil overnight. If you have prepped too much food, then you will simply be ahead for the next morning. We cannot afford to stop our whole process during service because proper precaution was not taken ahead of time.
It is also important to make sure that items are prepped into the appropriate sized containers. If you keep an item in a 1/6 pan on the line then all of your backups of that item should also be wrapped, labeled and dated in 1/6 pans. There is no time to be transferring something from a 1/3 pan to a 1/6 pan during service. You need to be able to grab and go.
These are days when sales will be increased by 20, 30, 40 percent or more. Proper prior preparation dictates that we must be proportionately ready. Speed and efficiency can be attained if we have taken the necessary precautions ahead of time. Too often we see restaurants making excuses and asking for customers’ understanding because they are so swamped on these nights. It is inevitable for all of us. This is going to happen, but how we respond is what will set us apart from the competition. If the managed chaos of the kitchen continues to flow seamlessly on these nights, then we will have gained that confidence from the customer when they order from us. All it takes is a few minutes of careful consideration beforehand. You will thank yourself when the hit is over.
Happy “Pizza Holidays”!
Michael Androw owns E & D Pizza Company in Avon, Connecticut.